Armando Vega Jr. couldn’t be happier about either.
The Miami native is a Valley Proteins Fellow, the VCCS’ most prestigious scholarship program that helps second-year students pursue their academic goals and strengthen their leadership skills. In addition to receiving full tuition, book expenses and fees, Valley Proteins Fellows participate in a unique curriculum of intellectual and cultural activities and volunteer for up to 80 hours of community service. Vega was one of 10 students selected from the 23 colleges in the VCCS.
“Winning the Valley Proteins scholarship has opened the doors for all kinds of possibilities, including Ivy League schools and the best schools in the Commonwealth,” said Vega, president of the Norfolk chapter of Phi Theta Kappa. “If you take it seriously, you really can go anywhere from here.”
Vega initially earned 48 hours of credit at Florida International University with plans to transfer to American University in Washington, D.C. He didn’t have the resources to make that work, instead entering the military. While in the Navy, a buddy encouraged him to volunteer at Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters, where he has since amassed 250 hours of service.
“Volunteering is very close to my heart,” Vega says. “Working with the children at CHKD by providing them with a distraction from their ailments or being a friend to them or simply nurturing them is the most meaningful way to use my time.”
Taking a more disciplined approach to his academics, Vega began at Tidewater Community College in fall 2012 to work toward his Associate of Science in Social Sciences. He credits staff at the TCC Educational Foundation for helping him with the transition and continues to be inspired by his classmates.
“TCC students come from such a wide array of circumstances, and in spite of whatever difficulties they may be experiencing, they continue to try to improve their lives through education,” he says. “TCC, the VCCS and the community college in general are such good starting points. I feel fortunate to be a part of this system that offers such a multitude of opportunities, ranging from technical schools to academia to a culinary school.”
Vega will graduate in May 2014 with an eye toward transferring to Columbia University, the University of Chicago, the College of William and Mary or the University of Virginia. He plans to pursue his master’s in business administration with hopes of working for a multinational.
As thrilled as Vega was with the financial part of the Protein Valleys program, he was equally excited about the leadership opportunities.
“I’ve gotten to be with all the other fellows, and we’re all like-minded people,” he says. “This program has people who give back to the community, which to me, are awesome, amazing people. It’s a privilege to be around them.”